Study: One Fifth Of Luzerne County Workers Impacted By Minimum-Wage Hike

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — At first, it sounds like a good new, bad news sort of thing.

The good news: According to a new report, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would help 21 percent of the Luzerne County workforce get better pay.

The bad news: One fifth of Luzerne County workers earn below or near the proposed new minimum of $10.10 an hour.

The numbers come from “Living on the Edge: Where Very Low-wage Workers Live in Pennsylvania,” issued by the Keystone Research Center this week. As part of a push to get Harrisburg to consider increasing the minimum, rallies were held around the state Thursday, including one on Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1380548/Study:-Wage-hike-would-boost-fifth-of-area-workers

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Gov. Corbett Announces Hundreds Of Additional Projects Due To Transportation Plan

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG, PA – Gov. Tom Corbett today outlined more than 250 projects that will start work this year due to the state’s new transportation plan.

At least $2.1 billion will be invested into the state’s highway and bridge network — about $600 million more than what would have been available without the transportation bill Corbett signed last fall. Overall, more than 900 projects will get underway this year.

“This plan is creating safer roads, bridges and transit systems while at the same time saving 12,000 jobs and creating 50,000 new ones over the next five years – 18,000 jobs are expected to be created this year alone.” Corbett said. “We are putting these transportation investments to work quickly as we strive to build a stronger Pennsylvania both now and in the future.”

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1301350/Gov.-Corbett-announces-hundreds-of-additional-projects-due-to-transportation-plan

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Drug Overdose Deaths Spur Legislation

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG, PA – Concerns about a spate of drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania have put the spotlight on legislation to create a state database to monitor illegal use of prescription drugs.

The issue surfaced last month during state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane’s budget hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Passage of monitoring legislation is key to combatting illegal drug use, Kane said. Prescription drug abuse is often a gateway to heroin use, she said.

“We have a heroin problem,” Kane said. “We also have a prescription pill problem.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/drug-overdose-deaths-spur-legislation-1.1647566

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Pennsylvania Community College Leaders Make Funding Case In Harrisburg

Harrisburg, PA — Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) President Dr. Karen A. Stout testified before the Pa. House Appropriations Committee in Harrisburg on Feb. 20 on the issue of community college funding for Fiscal Year 2014-15. She joined Pa. Commission for Community Colleges (PACCC) President and CEO Elizabeth A. Bolden and Butler County Community College President Dr. Nick Neupauer, who also serves as PACCC’s Board Chairman.

Together the three leaders testified about the critical need for increased operating and capital funding for the Commonwealth’s 14 community colleges. Governor Corbett’s proposed FY 14-15 budget does not include any increase in the community college operating appropriation. If approved, this will be the fourth consecutive year of flat funding in operating following a 10 percent funding cut five years ago. Allowing for inflation, the recommended appropriation is $12 million below the necessary level.

During her testimony, Dr. Stout revealed that, if the proposed budget is passed, MCCC will receive less in operating dollars in FY 14-15 than eight years ago.

“The operating efficiencies used to manage these cuts have already been implemented, and gains from them already realized and exhausted,” she said in her testimony. “Even modest tuition increases are difficult for our students to manage. Last year, we deregistered more than 2,500 students for non-payment. Approximately half return to us at some point, but half are shut out of higher education, even with Pell and PHEAA grants.”

Three MCCC students – Octavia Beyah, Tyler Tucker and Elizabeth Waddell – accompanied Dr. Stout to Harrisburg to lend their support to Pennsylvania’s community colleges.

Beyah, a first-generation college student, is funding her own education. She started her journey at a four-year university, but reverse transferred to MCCC to graduate without debt. Likewise, Tucker chose to attend MCCC to balance life and work to avoid early debt; she aspires to be an appellate court judge. And Waddell comes from a single parent household and acknowledges that education tends to go on the “back burner” when living paycheck to paycheck.

“Students like Octavia, Tyler and Elizabeth build the economic and civic capacity of our community, one dream fulfilled at a time,” shared Dr. Stout in her testimony.

Stout went on to share how the economic impact of MCCC’s students extends to all Pennsylvania residents. For example, taxpayers, see a return rate of 7.2 percent on their investment, and every one dollar of state and local tax money invested in the College yields a cumulative $21.60 in benefits that accrue to all Pennsylvania residents in terms of added taxable income and avoided social costs.

“Fifty years ago, a group of visionary State and local leaders from across the Commonwealth passed the Community College Act, and with it, a commitment to invest in the hopes, dreams and aspirations of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to access affordable, high quality, transfer education and workforce training programs that could lead them into the middle class and thus build the quality of life and civic development and economic competitiveness of Pennsylvania. Over these 50 years, nearly 400,000 Montgomery County residents have benefitted from access to these programs. The ripple effect of those attending – on our community – is multi-generational,” shared Dr. Stout.

In addition to restoring operating funds, Bolden and PACCC asked the House Appropriations Committee for capital funding to be increased in order to address the $726 million in documented infrastructure improvements for the State’s 14 community colleges over the next five years.  As it stands now, the Governor’s proposed budget calls for a $1 million cut in capital.

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UTILITIES SCRAMBLE TO RESTORE POWER IN PA., MD.

Editor’s note:  Ash, you’re a class act!

HARRISBURG, PA (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people spent a second day without electricity Thursday as utility crews from as far away as Canada and Arkansas scrambled to restore power lost when ice took down trees and limbs in the mid-Atlantic. Forecasters said a bone-chilling cold would remain in place for days.

Nearly a half-million customers lacked power in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In Pennsylvania, where most of the outages were located, officials likened the scope of the damage to a hurricane. Some who might not get power back for several days sought warmth — or at least somewhere to recharge their batteries — in shopping malls, public libraries and hastily established shelters.

One cafe in downtown Pottstown gave about 15 free meals to people without power, encouraged them to plug in devices and even let a few get a warm shower.

“It’s just kind of giving back to the community — there’s no other purpose of this,” said iCreate Cafe owner Ashraf Khalil.

Read more: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/storm-leaves-hundreds-thousands-dark

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett Announces 2014-2015 Budget Plan, Targets Education

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG, PA — Gov. Tom Corbett gave his annual budget address Tuesday, outlining a plan for 2014-2015 that seeks to put a priority on education.

“Education is the largest single item in my budget,” Corbett said. “The increase I propose would bring direct state support of public education to $10.1 billion, more than 40 percent of state spending.”

The increase will bring the total of additional education funding for the past three years to $1.2 billion, the governor said.

Corbett directly addressed the cuts to education funding which opponents have criticized since Corbett took office in 2011. The cuts were necessary to grappled with the decreasing federal stimulus package that coincided with the 2008 recession, he said.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140204/pennsylvania-gov-tom-corbett-announces-2014-2015-budget-plan-targets-education

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Montco Residents’ Butter Sculpture Honors The Milkshake At Pa. Farm Show

Location of Whitemarsh Township in Montgomery ...

Location of Whitemarsh Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Will Sellers appeared amazed as he stared at roughly 1,000 pounds of butter fashioned into a three-dimensional image that depicts a guy selling milkshakes beside two cows dancing on their hind legs.

“I’ve never seen a butter sculpture,” said Sellers, of Luling, La.

Sellers was in Harrisburg on Thursday to help his father-in-law — Larry Hamilton, owner of Potter County-based Hamilton’s Maple Products — set up a display for the family’s business at the 98th Pennsylvania Farm Show.

The sculpture, a longtime tradition at the show, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world, Farm Show officials said.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140103/montco-residents-butter-sculpture-honors-the-milkshake-at-pa-farm-show

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2014 Pennsylvania Farm Show Starts January 4th In Harrisburg

The Pennsylvania Farm Show runs Jan. 4 through Jan. 11 at the Pennsylvania Complex & Expo Center, North Cameron and Maclay Streets, Harrisburg.

Show hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 4 through 11 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 12

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/business/20140102/live-from-the-2014-pennsylvania-farm-show

Historic Rail Car Coming Home To Pennsylvania

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BOYERTOWN, PA — A relic from the golden age of Pennsylvania’s railroading past is coming home.

Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) cabin car (known as a “caboose” on other railroads) #477768 was built in Altoona in 1941.

For the last six years, members of the Rivanna Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) have been restoring it at a location in Virginia, far from the car’s home.

Now it is being donated to the non-profit Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust in Boyertown. There it will be maintained and kept in operation on The Secret Valley Line tourist trains that will begin running on the eight mile track between Boyertown and Pottstown in the fall of 2014.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20131224/historic-rail-car-coming-home-to-pennsylvania

Outgoing Harrisburg Mayor, Linda Thompson, Lands On Time Magazine’s 2013 Mayors’ Gaffe List

Editor’s note:  Ms. Thompson landed in the number two spot.  A rather infamous list of mayoral faux pas from around the globe.  Way to go LT for putting Harrisburg in the international spotlight.

The Year in Mayors’ Gaffes

A road to political purgatory, from bad to worst

Read more: The Year in Mayors’ Gaffes | TIME.com http://poy.time.com/2013/12/10/the-year-in-mayors-gaffes/#ixzz2nhSvTjn9

Pension Crisis About To Explode For Pennsylvania School Districts

School districts across Pennsylvania are getting news that’s unpleasant yet not unexpected.

The Public School Employees Retirement System, or PSERS, last week began sending notices to school districts that their pension costs will climb to 21.4 percent of payroll in the 2014-15 school year.

Even though that total could change a bit before it becomes official at an end-of-year meeting of the PSERS board, it gives a pretty good indication of what school districts are facing.

For historical context, the 21.4 percent figure is the highest rate since at least the 1950s — and it’s quite a jump from the 16.9 percent districts paid this year.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20131204/pension-crisis-about-to-explode-for-pa-school-districts

With House Passage, All Are Aboard State Transportation Bill

Pennsylvania state map county outlines

Pennsylvania state map county outlines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Billions in new taxes and spending for roads, bridges and mass transit in Pennsylvania comfortably cleared a final legislative hurdle Thursday with a bipartisan vote to send a long-stalled bill to the governor.

The state House voted 113-85 to tax gasoline and raise motorist fees over five years to generate at least $2.3 billion in annual additional funding.

Gov. Tom Corbett said in brief remarks at an appearance with a few dozen legislators that he perceived an urgent need to address transportation infrastructure after taking office three years ago.

He said passage of the vote showed leadership and mentioned concerns about public safety several times.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=519891

Multiple People Shot Following Harrisburg Youth Party

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Multiple adults and juveniles were shot as they left a youth party at the Community Center at Walnut and Hoerner streets in Harrisburg early Saturday morning.

Police were dispatched to a shooting report at North 16th and Walnut streets at 12:55, and upon arrival, were directed to Walnut and Hoerner streets to investigate a report of multiple shots fired.

As the investigation was underway, several people arrived to area hospitals with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.

Read more: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/10/multiple_people_shot_following.html#incart_m-rpt-2

Some Parts Of Harrisburg Area Hit With 10 Inches Of Rain Thursday Through Friday, Forecasters Say

Locator map of the Harrisburg metro area in th...

Locator map of the Harrisburg metro area in the south central part of the of . Red denotes the Harrisburg-Carlisle Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the Lebanon Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Harrisburg-Carlisle-Lebanon CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After two days of record breaking rainfall, the sun is once again visible in the Harrisburg area this morning.

Some parts of the Cumberland, York and Dauphin counties received more than ten inches of rain during the last 48 hours, according to estimates by the National Weather Service in State College.

The Harrisburg area officially received a total of 9.74 inches of rain on Thursday and Friday, according to measurements taken at the Harrisburg International Airport.

Friday’s rainfall in Harrisburg was measured at 5.72 inches. That crushed the previous high for Oct. 11, which was 1.47 inches, set in 1905.

Read more: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/10/some_parts_of_harrisburg_area.html#incart_river_default

Pa. Senate Leader To Seek Higher Speed Limit

HARRISBURG, PA – A leading Pennsylvania state senator says it’s time to increase the state’s maximum allowable speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said today he will introduce legislation soon to allow the higher maximum speeds on interstates.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=516214

A Year After A Shift On Second Street, Harrisburg’s Restaurant Row Is ‘Kinder, Gentler’ — And A Bit More Mature, Businesses Say

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is not your twenty-somethings’ Second Street. Sure, Harrisburg’s Restaurant Row remains a haven for newly-minted but decidedly inexperienced drinkers that can lead to problems for establishment owners, their patrons and police.

But over the past year, there has been a deliberate shift on Second Street. Its character has mellowed and matured, some business owners say. And the proof is in the character of the crowds. It’s a slightly older customer base now seen in upstart — and upscale — establishments such as the Federal Taphouse, the Susquehanna Ale House and the Second Street Comedy Club.

The turning point came in early 2012. After a string of stabbings, including a fatality, the Dragonfly nightclub abruptly closed. Instead of a driving beat, the space was given over to craft beer and gourmet burgers with the summer opening of the Federal Taphouse. By all accounts, the joint venture of Corey Fogarty of Fogarty Hospitality and Judd Goodman of Brubar Inc. has been a smashing success.

Not only is business good. Business as usual has changed on Second Street as a result. Crowds are a little older. Instead of bargain beer specials, thirty- and forty-somethings are spending $7 and $8 a beer. They’re coming in for dinner, shifting peak hours to between 5 p.m. and midnight, instead of midnight to 2 a.m.

Read more: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/10/a_year_after_a_shift_on_second.html#incart_m-rpt-2

Harrisburg Mayoral Hopefuls Fielding Questions For First General Election Debate

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG, PA – Three mayoral candidates are fielding questions during the general election’s first debate.

The event started at 6 p.m. at co-sponsor Harrisburg Area Community College’s student center, 1 HACC Drive.

Democrat Eric Papenfuse, Republican nominee Dan Miller and write-in hopeful Lewis Butts will participate.

Whoever wins the election will lead Harrisburg as the city emerges from financial recovery.

Read more:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/10/harrisburg_mayoral_hopefuls_fi.html#incart_river#incart_m-rpt-2

Corbett Compares Same-Sex Marriage To Incest

HARRISBURG, PA – Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett on Friday compared same-sex marriage to the marriage of brothers and sisters.

The Republican governor, whose approval ratings have been low and who is up for reelection next year, made the comments during an interview with WHP-TV in Harrisburg, after being asked about a controversial statement his lawyers had made over the summer on gay marriage.

During the interview, Corbett called “inappropriate” his attorneys’ statement in an August court filing. In the filing, the attorneys wrote that gay marriage is against Pennsylvania law, just as marriage is between children.

The governor then told the news station that he thought “a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don’t you?”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20131005_Corbett_compares_same-sex_marriage_to_brother-sister_union.html#A7xRLwC0WQogOpz0.99

Governor Would Sign Transportation Bills

HARRISBURG, PA – Amid Pennsylvania’s stalled debate over how to raise more money for highways and transit agencies, state Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch said Friday that Gov. Tom Corbett would sign either of two plans that have led debate in the legislature.

Corbett has not to date publicly endorsed any specific transportation funding plan in the Legislature after a $1.8 billion plan he released in February failed to gain much traction with lawmakers.

But a new willingness by the governor to embrace either bill is a sign that he is no longer willing to let disagreement over some elements of each bill stop him from making it law.

“He wants a transportation bill on his desk,” Schoch said. “What passes both parts of the Legislature I believe he’ll sign.”

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=514833

Moving Harrisburg Forward Might Be Impossible Without Settling Present

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The forum was supposed to focus on the future of Harrisburg. And to a large extent, it did. But the reality of city’s present casts a long shadow over any discussion in the capital these days.

At some point in the next three months, it is likely the Harrisburg recovery plan, whether you support it or not, is going to go into effect, essentially eliminating the city’s massive debts and putting its government back on the path to some form of solvency.

How much it is able to carry that past the next four years remains unknown. But the future of the city, whether it stagnates or begins a new renaissance, will largely be in its own hands, unencumbered from debt obligations.

At its core, argues developer Ralph Vartan, is a simple equation. Of the 58,000 people who work in the city, only about 10,000 live in the city. That is further unbalanced by the fact that over the last several decades the regional population has almost doubled, while Harrisburg’s has stagnated.

Read more: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/09/moving_harrisburg_forward_may.html#incart_m-rpt-2